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Starbucks Index: What It Is and How It Measures Currency Value

Last updated 05/27/2024 by

Silas Bamigbola

Edited by

Fact checked by

The Starbucks index is a measure of purchasing power parity (PPP) that compares the cost of a tall latte in local currency against the U.S. dollar in various countries. It provides insight into currency valuation by analyzing the relative prices of a common consumer good across different nations.

Introduction to the Starbucks index

The Starbucks index, also known as the Latte index, presents a unique perspective on global economics. It evaluates purchasing power parity (PPP) by contrasting the cost of a tall latte in diverse countries with its price in the United States. This index has gained popularity due to its simplicity and accessibility, simplifying complex economic concepts for the general public.

Understanding Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)

Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) stands as a fundamental concept in international economics. It posits that exchange rates between currencies should normalize the prices of identical goods across different countries. Essentially, if PPP holds true, the basket of goods’ cost should remain consistent in two different countries when expressed in a common currency, after adjusting for exchange rates.

Relative purchasing power parity (RPPP)

Relative purchasing power parity (RPPP) refines the PPP concept by considering disparities in inflation rates between nations. It recognizes that exchange rates may fluctuate over time due to variations in inflation rates, influencing the relative value of currencies.

Origins and development of the Starbucks index

The Starbucks index originated in 2004 through The Economist, offering a whimsical yet insightful portrayal of PPP. Since its inception, various publications and institutions have adopted similar indices, employing diverse consumer goods as benchmarks for comparison.

Comparison with other indices

While the Starbucks index employs the tall latte price as its benchmark, other indices, such as the Big Mac Index, utilize different consumer products to gauge PPP. Each index furnishes distinctive insights into currency valuation and global economic trends.

How the Starbucks index works

The mechanics of the Starbucks index are straightforward. By juxtaposing the tall latte price in U.S. dollars across numerous countries, analysts can evaluate whether a currency is overvalued or undervalued relative to the dollar. An overvalued currency results in a higher latte price, while an undervalued currency yields a lower price.

Limitations of the Starbucks index

Despite providing a simplified perspective on currency valuation, the Starbucks index has inherent limitations. It overlooks various factors influencing prices, including labor costs, taxes, and economic conditions. Furthermore, differences in consumer preferences and market dynamics may skew the index results.
Weigh the risks and benefits
Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks of using the Starbucks index:
  • Provides a simple and relatable way to understand currency valuation.
  • Offers insights into global economic trends and purchasing power disparities.
  • Can be used as a supplementary tool for macroeconomic analysis.
  • May oversimplify complex economic factors.
  • Does not account for various influences on prices, such as labor costs and taxation policies.
  • Subject to criticism for its reliance on a single consumer good as a benchmark.

Examples of the Starbucks index in practice

Several publications and institutions have employed the Starbucks index to assess currency valuation in various countries. These real-world examples underscore the index’s practical utility in comprehending global economic trends.

The Wall Street Journal’s latte index

The Wall Street Journal devised its version of the Starbucks index, concentrating on latte prices in major cities worldwide. By comparing prices across diverse geographical regions, the WSJ furnishes valuable insights into currency fluctuations and purchasing power disparities.

The Finder’s latte index

The Finder’s Latte index offers a comprehensive analysis of latte prices across different countries, incorporating factors such as labor costs and taxes. With data from 76 countries, this index provides a nuanced understanding of global economic disparities.

The Big Mac index

The Big Mac index, pioneered by The Economist, serves as another benchmark for assessing PPP. By comparing the Big Mac price across different countries, analysts can assess the relative value of currencies and identify potential exchange rate discrepancies.

Criticisms and controversies

Despite its popularity, the Starbucks index has encountered criticism from economists and experts. Skeptics argue that simplistic measures like the latte price fail to capture the complexities of global markets. Factors such as supply chain logistics, taxation policies, and consumer behavior may significantly influence prices, undermining the index’s reliability as a predictor of currency valuation.


In conclusion, the Starbucks index offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of international economics. By examining the price differentials of a simple consumer good like a tall latte across various countries, analysts can gain valuable insights into currency valuation and purchasing power parity. While the index provides a simplified view of complex economic concepts, it serves as a useful tool for understanding global economic trends and disparities.

Frequently asked questions

How often is the Starbucks Index updated?

The frequency of updates to the Starbucks Index may vary depending on the source and methodology used. While some organizations update their index annually or semi-annually, others may do so more frequently to reflect changes in currency values and economic conditions.

What factors contribute to differences in latte prices between countries?

Several factors can influence variations in latte prices between countries, including labor costs, taxes, rent, import/export duties, and local economic conditions. Additionally, currency exchange rates and inflation rates play significant roles in determining price differentials.

Is the Starbucks Index an accurate measure of currency valuation?

While the Starbucks Index offers valuable insights into currency valuation, it is not without limitations. The index simplifies complex economic factors and may overlook certain variables, such as labor costs and consumer preferences. As such, it should be used in conjunction with other economic indicators for a comprehensive analysis.

How does the Starbucks Index compare to other similar indexes?

The Starbucks Index is just one of several indexes used to measure purchasing power parity (PPP). Other indexes, such as the Big Mac Index and the iPad Index, utilize different consumer goods as benchmarks for comparison. Each index offers unique perspectives on currency valuation and global economic trends.

Can the Starbucks Index be used for investment or trading purposes?

While the Starbucks Index provides insights into currency valuation and purchasing power parity, it is not typically used as a direct tool for investment or trading decisions. Investors and traders typically rely on more comprehensive economic data and analysis to inform their decisions.

Does the Starbucks Index consider regional variations in latte prices?

Yes, the Starbucks Index acknowledges regional disparities in latte prices within countries. While overall national averages may provide insights into currency valuation, regional variations can offer additional nuances about local economic conditions and purchasing power dynamics.

Are there any criticisms or controversies surrounding the Starbucks Index?

Yes, the Starbucks Index has faced criticism from economists and experts who argue that it oversimplifies complex economic factors. Critics contend that relying on a single consumer good like a latte as a benchmark may not accurately reflect broader economic trends and disparities.

Key takeaways

  • The Starbucks index measures purchasing power parity by comparing the cost of a tall latte in different countries against the price in the United States.
  • Purchasing power parity suggests that exchange rates should equalize the prices of identical goods in different countries.
  • While the Starbucks index offers valuable insights into currency valuation, it has limitations and should be used in conjunction with other economic indicators.

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